The Most Successful Pivot in History Built a $500 Billion Business in Just 1 Year



Each day, millions of people around the world tune in to the website designed to “tune in and hook up.” But it’s not just singles using the platform designed to be an online dating site. Its user base of around 2.3 billion includes those in committed relationships, and those of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly. 

Today, nearly 40 percent of people meet their partners over the internet, and people increasingly create facades online, painting a picture of themselves that isn’t exactly a portrait of honesty, In fact, it’s such a common problem that there’s an eight-season hit television show, MTV’s Catfish, dedicated solely to uncovering identities of those who have built relationships over the internet. This isn’t exactly a new problem either. 

So when YouTube’s founding team thought up the idea of a video-sharing platform, the most effective market-entry strategy was clear: Build a video-based dating site where users publish videos of themselves sharing information about themselves and the types of date they’re looking for, mitigating much of the mystery surrounding online dating. 

But, upon YouTube’s launch, no one was biting. In fact, its founders were so desperate to get users that they posted an ad on Craigslist offering to pay users $20 each to post a video on the site. And still the platform was going dry. Despite what appeared to be a surmounting marketing need for the platform, the market had little to no interest in it. 

This problem isn’t isolated to the dating industry but is a universal phenomenon across all industries. 

Founders see their own ideas differently from anyone else. It’s the very reason they pursue what others don’t. But this vision also often comes with blinders. Founders fail to see what’s around them as they’re blinded by their own ideas. And it’s not just green entrepreneurs who do this. Seasoned entrepreneurs do this too. 

In just one year, YouTube founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim transformed their idea with a simple pivot that led to its being bought by Google for $1.65 billion. While their original idea appears to not only be highly relevant but potentially necessary, it didn’t necessarily work. 

By letting go of their original strategy–and what they considered the most evident market entry point–they created something that they actually wanted. Which happened to be something that the world wanted. In return, YouTube is now said to be worth upwards of $500 billion

The purpose of a launch strategy is to lower barriers to entry, but sometimes the barriers founders see aren’t barriers at all. In the case of YouTube, it goes to show that sometimes the barrier to entry is just in our own minds, and that when founders prioritize their true vision above strategies that simply serve as a means to an end, they’re more likely to persevere and discover their own fastest path to their success. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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